Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Q&A with Angelin Preljocaj

Posted By on Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 8:35 AM

Angelin Preljocaj
  • Angelin Preljocaj
In anticipation of his company's performance in Atlanta on November 7, I caught up with the renowned French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj. His company will be presenting Empty moves (Parts 1 and 2), set to the work of conceptualist composer John Cage. You can read a portion of our talk below. Read the full feature here or in the November 4 print version of Creative Loafing available everywhere.

What inspired you to put movement to John Cage's Empty Words?

What I like is the deconstruction he brought in this project of Empty Words. I started to work on an idea to deconstruct my own grammar of movement. For example, for Empty Words, he took a text of Henry David Thoreau. And he cut all the words in different phonemes and he mixed all that. He chose each phoneme completely by chance. Then, the text he used to perform. If you hear it, you have the sensation it has no sense, but it comes from a structured text, very deep, from Thoreau. I tried to find the same deconstruction in my work in the way I worked with my dancers, I tried to invent a new vocabulary through this deconstruction.

What I like also: Empty Words is a performance he did in Italy in a theater in Milan. I used this recording for the sound of my piece. What I like is the way the Italian people participated in the process of John Cage but without knowing that they are participating in the piece of John Cage. They scream, they laugh, they manifested their disapprobation for the project of John Cage, but doing that, they participated in a piece of John Cage.

But it must have been a challenge to choreograph. There's no traditional melody, no musicality, no rhythm to Empty Words.

Yes, yes. But there is a kind of musicality to the voice of John Cage because he gives the text and the phonemes of this text something very calm, something very calming. Even though everybody was screaming in the audience, he continued reading, like with Chinese bones. It's a kind of serenity. He has a kind of serenity in his voice, and this brings sensation in the movement also. I used a lot the feeling of his voice and the mood of what his voice is bringing.

Members of Ballet Preljocaj perform Empty moves (Parts 1 and 2) .
  • Members of Ballet Preljocaj perform Empty moves (Parts 1 and 2) .

Did you ever meet John Cage? [Preljocaj studied in the company of Cage's lifetime partner, choreographer Merce Cunningham, in New York in the 1980s. Cage died in 1992]

No, unfortunately not. I studied for 6 months in the studio of Merce Cunningham, and of course I saw Merce many times, but unfortunately I never met John Cage. It's very sad for me.

Do you think there is a Preljocaj “style”?

In the end, that's not my work. It's your job. It's very difficult for an artist to define his own style because I think this can only be defined by someone from the exterior. They can analyze. Most artists do things by intuition. Of course, there's a lot of structure and intelligence in the work, too, but also there's a lot of intuition. I think an art piece is half part of intelligence, half part of intuition. If you have just intelligence it's not an art piece, and if it's just intuition it's not an art piece. It's a strange combination, and maybe that's why an artist is not able to define his own style. But the definition is possible by someone who is exterior to the work and has a cold analysis of what he sees.


Take a stab at defining the Preljocaj style yourself when Ballet Preljocaj performs Empty moves (Parts 1 and 2) on Sunday, November 7, at 5 pm at Georgia State's Rialto Center for the Performing Arts. For more information visit http://www.rialtocenter.org/ or call 404-413-9TIX (9849).

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